Reminiscent of the period when banks in Nigeria were required to set aside 10% of their profit before tax for players in the Small and Medium-scale sector of the economy, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Industries Limited, says he will sponsor a bill at the National Assembly seeking legislation that will require private sector organizations to set aside 1% of their profit for a health sector fund. Dangote Industries, is the parent company of Dangote Cement Plc, Dangote Sugar Refinery, and NASCON Allied, among others.
This allocation, which will be separate from payment of corporate tax to the government, he said, will help the country tackle Nigeria’s health sector challenges, like the one posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Dangote, who was fielding questions during the virtual Bloomberg New Economic Forum (NEF), at a session titled, “Cross-Sector Mobilisation in Times of Crisis: Public Health Perspective,” agreed that funding is a major barrier to dealing with health crises effectively.
According to him, the Aliko Dangote Foundation is “trying to sponsor a bill to our Congress where we want them to impose a tax. This is a separate tax, not a corporate tax, or maybe about one percent of all our profits, in the private sector, so that they will fund health.
“And, I think it is the only way; we cannot just leave government alone. Government alone cannot fund health. So we the foundations, the private sector and then the government, we have to actually work together to make sure that we fund health. You know, it is a very, very important sector and without a healthy population, there is no way you have a healthy economy. And healthy youth, who make up a large percentage of our population, can make a difference.”
Speaking on the COVID-19 pandemic and its ravaging impact on Africa’s health and economic sectors, and the role of the private sector, Dangote said: “for us here in Nigeria, mostly in Africa, the COVID-19 is really an eye-opener because we have two impacts. One is the human impact, the other one is the economy – which incidentally also impacts people directly.
“In Africa, most of it is actually the economic impact, because what you have done at the beginning, is shut down all our activities, is shut down the airports. So when you look at the economic impact for us, it is huge. The health impact has not been as severe as in other places.
“As of today, we have about 65,000 cases in Nigeria, and 1,165 deaths in a country of almost 200m people. Each lost life is a tragedy, but the numbers here are not high compared to the population. But because of the lockdowns a lot of people couldn’t really go out to earn their livelihood.
“So what we did is set up this Coalition against COVID-19, where I mobilised the private sector and we were able to raise the sum of $112m. And what we did was set up 39 isolation centres, ranging in size from 100 beds to 200 beds. We bought ventilators, oxygen machines, and all the required equipment to set up effective isolation centres.
“After isolation centres and testing supplies, we knew people also needed to eat. The lockdowns interfered with their ability to work and afford money to eat. So we went out and bought food for 10m people, which is five percent of the population… people at the bottom of the pyramid, equivalent to 1.7m households, to reduce effects of the lockdown,” he stressed further.